I was born in the stone ages. I grew up without personal computers, mobile phones, and social media. A phone call to the next town was expensive.
I kept in touch with my cousin in Ohio and friends I met at camp on paper. Later, I traded letters with boyfriends. I’ll confess I might still have some of those letters somewhere.
And didn’t Cyrano woo his Roxane on paper?
Besides, despite many claims of its demise, direct mail is still king.
Here’s the truth: you can use letters to hide from a relationship or to build one. What makes the difference?
If you want to build strong relationships through the mail, you need to communicate well. There’s an art and a science to good copywriting.
So you can outsource copywriting to an expert. And you can begin to learn yourself.
I began with a printed newsletter Jerry Huntsinger mailed. You can get many of the same lessons for free now on SOFII.
But you can’t learn overnight. It takes years of failing and learning. Consider leaning on an expert while you learn. Even if you never do your own writing, understanding how it’s done will help you choose your expert well.
As important as good technique are your intentions. Are you interested in a relationship or just in the money?
Maybe money is the only thing you’re after. Maybe you work for an organization with thousands of names and money to burn. If so, you can churn through purchased names and hope to stay ahead of attrition rates.
The rest of us should care a lot about relationships and retention.
That means your goals aren’t as simple as dollars. Your goals are about bringing the donor into the mission.
When donors begin to care as much as (or more than) you do, you’re on your way. The dollars will follow.
Beyond the page – a plan
How does the written word fit into your plan for donors? Have you thought through next steps?
First, remember not every donor will want a closer relationship. But if you have donors who are both qualified and willing, do you have a plan for them?
For all your donors, do you have a plan to welcome, thank and report back to them?
You can build long-term relationships with donors – even donors who will never be major gift prospects. Every donor matters.
Move toward more personal communication with thank you phone calls.
You can also add thank you events. They can be a great chance to meet face to face in a relaxed atmosphere.
Many donors are quite happy to support your organization without a great deal of one to one communication. They do need to know they’re appreciated – and that their gifts matter. And smaller, but loyal donors can someday become major donors – when they quietly make room for your organization in their wills.
The bottom line
Donor relationships can thrive through the mail (or email). But you have to do the work.
Bad copywriting is emotionally distant. It’s official. It stands back from the reader. It feels safe to you because it lets you hide from donors.
To be successful you have to put your heart on the line. You have to risk writing emotionally.
You have to offer your heart to ask donors to give. That’s pretty personal, isn’t it?
Photo thanks to robarmstrong2